Category: About Writing

Summer Reading: Two Baghdads, Two Nathaniels and a Song

The joys of passing through airports with bookshops! Hong Kong airport has pretty much banned bookshops – the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t do freedom of speech – but on the way through Dubai I was able to pick up some new books which, along with some old ones gathering dust in our friend’s flat near Lake… Read more »

Remembering Shanghai

As a genre, I tend to avoid the self-published memoir. While they sometimes contain amusing incidents, too many are written by Colonel Blimp types with an instructional message for young men and women seeking the benefits of elder counsel for their improvement, and the rest stretch 20,000 words of content into 80,000 words of waffle. Remembering… Read more »

On My Shelf

I first came across Angela Clarke at last year’s Writers’ Day put on by The Literary Consultancy. She gave a great talk about how she maintains a web presence – tips I have aspired to live up to – but her fiction was a genre I’m not a great fan of so I didn’t, ahem, read… Read more »

Two Must-Reads

Amongst the latest batch of second-hand books I was given were Purple Hibiscus and The Summer Book. These are both about growing up, are both moving and beautifully written, yet the childhoods they depict are polar opposites. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist, and Purple Hibiscus, published in 2003, her first book. I have… Read more »

Dark Materials

It has been a long while since I read any new (to me) fantasy. I’ve re-read Lord of the Rings a few times, will probably give Dune a second go at some point and, like millions of others, am waiting for George R. R. Martin to pull his finger out and finish Game of Thrones. But, those… Read more »

Two Books About Hong Kong

Hong Kong Review of Books asked me to review two books on Hong Kong. Here are the reviews for Hong Kong on the Brink and Hong Kong Confidential.

AirBnB Books

I stayed at Rhona and Hugh’s excellent AirBnB in November. Apart from being wonderful hosts and fully deserving their five star rating, they introduced me to the writing of Sebastian Barry. Days Without End is set in the latter half of the nineteenth century in America, and follows Thomas McNulty and John Cole through their… Read more »

Books on Writing

I am not a fan of Stephen King. After pressure from a few friends, I tried Carrie and found it puerile; I gave him a second chance with The Shining and found it only little less. It may be that I’m not much into the horror genre, but I found the plots were just a little… Read more »

Suspending Disbelief

Milan Kundera observed somewhere or other that one of the key things fiction does is ask the reader to suspend their disbelief. Three books I’ve read over the summer push that ask a little too far. Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews is a cold-war spy thriller set in contemporary times. The idea is that Dominika,… Read more »

Some South East Asian Novels

Four Reigns was first published as a newspaper serial in Thailand in the 1950s. The author, Kukrit Pramoj, was in the first generation of Thais to undergo and overseas education – he went to Queen’s College, Oxford – and I can’t help but think that there’s a lot of his own life in this book. Which makes for an interesting… Read more »